Healthy food brands and investors have written to Boris Johnson accusing him of “pulling the rug” from under their development of healthier food products following the recent HFSS U-turn.
The open letter was sent following the governments’ recent announcement to delay plans to restrict multibuy deals and advertising foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS).
Last week, ministers announced the HFSS policy, which would have banned multibuy deals on ‘unhealthy’ foods and drinks – including buy one get one free (BOGOF), ‘3 for 2’, and restricting free refills for soft drinks – will now be delayed until October 2023.
As a result, dozens of companies producing low sugar, low calorie snacks claim “forward thinking” suppliers are also being punished by the delay, which ministers claim is due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The letter also states the decision will lead to bigger food brands “swamping” customers with unhealthy food. Companies which have backed the call include Young Foodies, The Collective Diary and Urban Health.
The letter states” “We recognise the importance of affordable and healthy food for all, in line with the government’s original, world-leading obesity strategy”
“Scrapping regulation on multibuys and junk food advertising undermines emerging innovation in our industry, while delays to these commitments enable big food and drink to continue swamping the public with unhealthy options, rather than setting the stage for healthier products and brands.
“By delaying and potentially scrapping the originally ambitious and evidence-based plans to improve the health of the food industry, you are allowing unhealthy brands to profit and flourish and worsening the obesity crisis. You have an opportunity to level the playing field, put healthier foods in the spotlight, and provide an incentive for more brands to innovate.”
Despite this, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) was one of the industry groups to welcome the delay.
“We welcome the UK government’s pragmatism during the cost of living crisis,” chief scientific officer Kate Halliwell said.
“At a time when both families and our manufacturers are struggling with high inflation, it makes sense to delay the restrictions on volume promotions for everyday food and drink products, including breakfast cereals, ready meals and yoghurts, as it risked further stretching already-pressed household budgets.
“We also welcome the delay to the start of advertising restrictions, given the time it will take our industry to prepare for the change in law.”